From the steep cliffs of Rifle in Colorado to the forests of Fontainebleau, France, BDTV travels the world to find these characters and document the joys, fears, decisions and sacrifices that go into living the life of a committed climber. Featuring award-winning cinematography, each film is accompanied by images from renowned photographers.
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Photography: Mattias Fredriksson, Thomas Senf & Andy Mann
Despite growing up among the boulders of Fontainebleau, it wasn’t until his 20s that Jacky learned to climb. “It was love at first sight,” he remembers. “I started climbing three times a week, then almost all the time.” Having trained as a gymnast, Jacky progressed quickly by combining physical strength with a competitive drive to prove himself. “I had this wish in me to break the boundaries, to go further and to do things that were more difficult than everything that was being done at the time. When I did competitions, I wanted to win. When I did difficult boulders, I wanted to do more difficult boulders than other people.”
But Jacky discovered something else in the forest, a new motivation distinct from his competitive background. “With climbing,” Jacky says, “I realized that there was something more than simply the physical side. There was doubt, and that’s what got me hooked.” The uncertainty inherent in climbing, and the emotional struggle it created, gave him a feeling of accomplishment unlike what he had felt in athletic competition. “If you’re sure of accomplishing something, to me this has no meaning. So if there is doubt, there is a risk, and this risk makes all of this more spicy, more exciting.”
Jacky Godoffe was born in a village just outside of Fontainebleau. “It was love at first sight,” he remembers of climbing.
“Creativity has no particular recipe,” he says, explaining the process by which he develops a new problem. “There are lots of little tricks to stimulate creativity. I try to draw something on the wall that is surprising. And when I have drawn something surprising, I try to lay movements in it. And then with these movements I adjust the difficulty so that it corresponds to the people who are going to climb it.”
Later today, the French team that Jacky sets for will run a mock competition for training, and Jacky is refining his routes. One of the climbers is Clémentine Kaiser, who won this year's French Bouldering Championship. These climbers are the cream of the crop, and Jacky spends time carefully crafting his problems to challenge them. Head tilted and hands miming the moves, he looks more like an artist than an athlete. His pale blue eyes seem to look through the wall, seeing the invisible possibilities behind each volume, or perhaps outside to the boulders that provide his inspiration.
He climbs a ladder, power drill in one hand and a few drywall screws between his lips. Moving from climb to climb, he removes one hold, adds another, rotates a third. He lays his hands on the holds, considering the angles. Finally, when he’s satisfied, he jumps down onto the pads. A few minutes later, he’s grabbed his sneakers and a bouldering pad, heading out the door and into the woods.
“Creativity has no particular recipe,” he says. “I try to draw something on the wall that is surprising."
“The forest is like the ‘lungs of Paris,'” Jacky says. “It was a source of inspiration for painters, for writers and later for climbers. I think it’s not only because of the rocks, but simply because of the forest.” Quiet roads curve through colonnades of stately elms, and footpaths—including the Sentiers Denecourt, first marked in the 1840s—explore the forest’s thousands of rock formations.
The boulders, with their smooth sandstone faces and delicate slopers, prove an exacting teacher of climbing movement. These rocks are technically so difficult, they have an existence of their own. Whereas for a long time it was just a way to practice to do something else, now it’s a goal on its own,” says Jacky. “To climb here is enough.”
Following one of the winding footpaths, Jacky arrives at the base of Pancras, a steeply overhanging 7a+ (from the stand-start) that climbs a pockmarked orange and gray boulder. He thoughtfully pulls on his shoes, quietly chalks his hands and then, like the legendary Bleausard he is, smoothly flows through a series of powerful, controlled moves, fingers latching pockets and slopers with a fluency belying the problem’s steepness and slickness—a skill he has mastered from decades of climbing on the nuances of the Fontainbleau stone. His hands palming dishy slopers, he confidently places his foot on the final foothold’s rounded edge, stands up and pads across to sit happily atop the boulder.
“Climbing these boulders can be inspiring,” he says, “not because of the difficulty, but because of the shape.”
THE BDTV FILM TOUR
Join us for free beer, food and the premiere of the first season of BDTV. At each stop of the BDTV Film Tour, we'll screen the next three episodes of BDTV, host a slideshow by a Black Diamond athlete and hold a raffle for Black Diamond gear and apparel.
April 14, 2016 – Black Diamond Store: Salt Lake City, UT
April 16, 2016 – Calgary Climbing Centre: Calgary, AB
April 21, 2016 – Outdoor Gear Exchange: Burlington, VT
April 21, 2016 – Wilderness Exchange: Denver, CO
April 28, 2016 – Neptune Mountaineering: Boulder, CO
May 3, 2016 – Austin Bouldering Project: Austin, TX
May 5, 2016 – Rock/Creek Outfitters: Chattanooga, TN
May 12, 2016 – Feathered Friends: Seattle, WA
May 12, 2016 – Momentum Indoor Climbing Lehi: Lehi, UT
May 28, 2016 – Summit Hut: Tucson, AZ
14 April 2016 — Balmelli: Lugano (CH)
20 April 2016 — Bächli: Zurich (CH)
21 April 2016 — Bächli: Basel (CH)
22 April 2016 — O'block: Bern (CH)
26 April 2016 — Addnature: Sthlm (SE)
26 April 2016 — Terre de Montagne: Ville-la-Grand (FR)
27 April 2016 — Sportsnett: Oslo (NO)
27 April 2016 — Expé: Lyon at L'ESCALE (FR)
28 April 2016 — Vertic Outdoor: Barcelona (ES)
12 June 2016 — On Sight: Stams (AT)
9 July 2016 — Naturzeit: Ludwigsburg (DE)
“You get used to it after a while,” Henrik says of the long approaches. “You just have to pack up and start walking. If you put one foot in front of the other, you will get there sooner or later. And 16 hours, maybe it sounds like a long time, but there are some people working 16 hours a day, and that’s probably a lot harder than walking. I love the feeling of being on my own, the silence and the time to think.”
And while Henrik climbed many of the peaks alone, for the final peak he brought along all the people who had made the project possible. Having chosen Blåuhammeren—a relatively easy walkup with a well-equipped mountain hut near the summit—he invited family, friends, colleagues and ski partners along for a celebration. Henrik and his partner Matilda took turns pulling a sled with their son Mio bundled up inside. And on the summit, Henrik and Mattias Skantz popped champagne to celebrate.
“The project was about finding new things,” Henrik said the next day. “But you can find yourself in it. I’m another person now than six years ago.”
Words: Alex Hamlin
Photography: Mattias Fredriksson